Bruininks advocates tuition relief for middle-class students

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 6, 2008 - 11:40 PM

Yes, middle-income families with children in college, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks understands your plight. And you're moving toward the top of his to-do list.

Yes, middle-income families with children in college, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks understands your plight. And you're moving toward the top of his to-do list.

The university has made great strides in recent years in increasing aid for students from low-income families -- about 4,700 students will attend all U campuses for free at an institutional cost of roughly $22 million. But Bruininks said during his 2008 State of the University address Thursday that, "We must strive to create a consistent and substantial level of scholarship and grant support for all middle-income Minnesota students."

Tuition and fees at the university's Twin Cities campus will likely increase to more than $10,000 for the 2008-09 school year. As recently as 1995, in-state tuition and fees at the Twin Cities campus were less than $5,000, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. In 2003, they were slightly more than $7,000.

"The trend in tuition increases have hit [middle-income] families harder," Bruininks said.

"We're making this a priority as we move forward," he said. "Exactly what form it takes is still ahead of us. I have made access and affordability in higher education one of my chief personal priorities as president of the University of Minnesota, and I plan on continuing to make it a priority."

In his fundraising, Bruininks has encouraged donors to give more money that can be used for need-based financial aid. The rub, however, is that most U students come from middle-income families. That means that it requires a significant amount of money to make a difference.

Shortly before Bruininks spoke, he learned that the Minnesota House had passed a bonding bill that includes $136 million for U projects. That total is about $6 million more than what Gov. Tim Pawlenty had recommended.

In addition, the bill provides funding for the state's share of a $292 million bioscience research facility.

"I'm very hopeful it will pass [the Senate] and be signed by the governor," Bruininks said. "I think we have some very difficult negotiations between the House, Senate and the governor."

Jeff Shelman • 612-673-7478

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